Something Magical: Magicka: Wizard Wars

By Jim Rossignol on May 15th, 2013 at 3:00 pm.


I saw Magicka: Wizard Wars while I was at GDC, and it was the highlight of my week. Magicka was a fascinating oddity out of left-field, and enormously entertaining, but on seeing Wizard Wars I immediately sensed that the idea could find its mature, developed form in multiplayer. Anyway, it’s taken a little while for assets to surface, and now they have I wanted to share them – and my enormous excitement about this game – with you.


You might recall that Magicka was based around the idea of combining a set of magic elements to produce spell effects. The result of this was an enormous generative set of possible outcomes, many of them random, poorly balanced, or just useless. The idea behind Wizard Wars is to take this same notion, but refine it and distill the effects until it becomes a rich PvP soup of possible spell-casting interactions. While Paradox’s produces at GDC were super-keen to stress what they were showing me was “early” I was immediately taken with just how slick it seemed: teams of wizards duking it out across a luscious map. I’m looking forward to them releasing a video so that you can really see what I mean.

The crucial heart of the game is a set of spell-casting specialisations, which will give you certain tactical advantages and weaknesses, something like character classes in other games. That’s not to say you aren’t extremely versatile. I watched a really reactive wizard-duel with two players countering each others offensive abilities with their own defensive shields and barriers.


While it does seem reminiscent of the current trend for MOBAs based on the DOTA model, this is very much its own game, with a sort of territory capture mechanic where one team of wizards has to dominate the map and hold all the capture points to win. This conquest style game will mean that desperate comebacks will be possible, and what I sort of the game showed some blistering turnarounds with single wizards managing to pull a fast one with their powers on opposing enemies. The capture points are also the spawn points, so one player could survive, and recapture a point to bring his team back. It’s a really elegant design that I am really impressed with.

The main game is going to be four versus four, but there will be some NPC and AI too. Again, this isn’t like MOBA creeps, the vision for the AI there is tied to the characters. They say they are pre-alpha, but the Paradox team suggest that the players will each field a couple of minions which cannot be directly controlled, but will add to the dynamism of combat – support rabid minions? Use them as a distraction? And so on. Essentially a super pet class. Only fairly perishable. There’s friendly fire, of course, as per Magicka, but they acknowledge that could become an issue.

The game just looks good too. The camera is closer in than Magicka was, and the customisations to the characters are clearly visible. There’s a sort of painterly thing that harks to classic 2D games, while at the same time feeling thoroughly modern. The spell effects rip and roar about the map, and occasionally death gets released on to the map an everyone runs for their lives. It’s just a lovely looking thing. In conclusion: watch this space, it’s looking magic.

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62 Comments »

  1. deadly.by.design says:

    I loved Magicka in a way I’ve loved few other small games. Here’s hoping this is a polished experience that isn’t ruined by XNA’s shortcomings. (same engine?)

    I’m not sure that a closer camera sounds like a good idea to me, though…. Are they just trying to avoid entire matches of beam & boulder spam?

  2. aliksy says:

    Magicka is probably one of my favorite games. In part because I really, really liked how there wasn’t any leveling or bullshit time sinks. You’re a wizard, here’re your elements, go to town. You win or lose entirely based on your cunning and skill, not how much you’ve leveled up.

    • mechabuddha says:

      My one complaint to this is the balancing of spells. After a few combinations, you find that there’s pretty much one super powerful attack spell and everything else pales in comparison. Now of course you’re not required to use that spell, but with single player being as touch and go as it is for some levels, you’d be severely limiting your chances of survival by not using it. I’d love to see a rebalanced coop campaign where using mud is just as viable as some arcane/cold/steam/lightning-uber spell.

      • vivlo says:

        actyually it’s not that true, looking at “competitive” mutliplayers replays on youtube there are some spells that are more efficient than others, but there is still many versatility and skill invovlved and knowledge of how fast you can cast spelles – i mean in some cases you’d better enchant your sword with a elctricicearcanshield, in others you’d better jsut cast a heavy boulder, which is countered by a steamaracaelectricity beam, which can explode on you if someone on the side casts a healing beam on it near you..; and there are mines, there are all the shields that are very contextuals, and there are the spells (magicka) tehmselves…….. you need a faire amount of playtime in multiplayer vs good players to get the grip of all of this, WHICh, i’ll have to agree, was not really possible BECAUSE buggy interface/network…. i personnally hope they won’t remove too much of teh imbalance because it was more balanced than it looked at first sight. If there is a proper network and proper servers, it could be possible to play this seriously etc.

        • deadly.by.design says:

          Yes, you are right. My experience with Magicka PvP was that flexibility was more important than spamming. For every perceived OP spell, there is ‘rock to its scissors’ or a way around it. (wards, shields, barriers, scaring them with your own firepower, etc)

        • Reapy says:

          Any link to one that would be good? I know i can search but i don’t know the game enough to know if what I’m watching is ‘uber’ or not.

          • vivlo says:

            weeell, you have to be sort of dedicated to find good replays on youtube, indeed…; some good stuff i think in that tournament, especailly the lasts games

          • Reapy says:

            Thanks for the links, some good watches. I hope they can pull out a nice game with this next one, the concept of flinging magic that all interacts with each other in a small squad vs squad setting seems pretty awesome.

          • alltedrygt says:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBotggZaEqM here are some more recent tournaments with much more experienced and better players. video isnt that good and there is no sound but there are several videos there with skilled players

          • vivlo says:

            @ alltedrygt : thanks a lot !!

        • kirby_freak says:

          I second this. My brother and I just got the game, and we’ve been messing around with PVP. We had both figured out a pretty OP spell (steam + lighting + arcane) and my brother was spamming it. He was quite surprised when I threw a shield on myself and the beam reflected and blew him up. :P

      • wisnoskij says:

        It can get annoying when the only way to get anywhere on hard difficulty is to master one particularly vicious combo and just use it over and over again at rapid speed.

        That yeti level was just stupid.

        • Gnoupi says:

          Yetis couldn’t damage you while wearing ice armor. Just saying.

          • aliksy says:

            I was fond of putting up earth walls so they couldn’t get to me. Multiple solutions!

          • Tacroy says:

            Last time I played Magicka, there was no such thing as ice armor. Just sayin’.

          • vivlo says:

            @Takroy : you ever try self cast QRE ?

          • darkChozo says:

            As I recall, ice armor has always been in the game. It was just more like an ice bunker early on (and IIRC, it stopped Yetis even then).

          • Tacroy says:

            Yeah, last I played self-casting any shield spells besides the standard shield (or mines!) would just trap you, which was actively bad for your survival. The yetis were just ridiculous then.

            My point is, people complaining about the yetis may have only played the version where they were ridiculous.

  3. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    If it isn’t a ridiculously buggy mess on release, this could eat my life. I keep getting sucked into hnnnnnrgh…. MOBAs and if you combine that sort of game with Magicka’s spellcasting I may never see sunlight again.

    • Gnoupi says:

      Yes, about the same for me. I have the most difficulties not to play a MOBA recently, and Magicka is very high in my all-time best games.

      The combination of the two, if well executed, should keep me playing for a loooong time.

    • Captain Joyless says:

      Though it will be fun in the long run, this long run is a misleading guide to its state at release. In the long run we are all dead. Game designers set themselves too easy, too useless a task if in a tempestuous release they can only tell us that when the storm is past the ocean is flat again.

  4. twig_reads says:

    So, eveyone is basically Invoker?

  5. vivlo says:

    The links for zooming 2d and 3rd images are broken ! (at least for me – firefox 20.0 macosx 10.6.8)

  6. Captain Joyless says:

    1. Brand new studio
    2. Publisher that never fails to release incredibly buggy games
    3. Little reason to believe Paradox is any good at online (ck2 metaserver was down for, what? nine months?)
    4. All the other problems with making a MOBA these days

    Other than that (I am not being sarcastic!!) it could be spectacular. I had a few issues with game/graphical lag when conjuring numerous elements in Magicka, and slightly wonky controls at times, and spell balance, but if they’re starting with a new engine there’s no reason to believe those issues will exist.

    So, hoping for an amazing game but expecting nothing.

  7. wisnoskij says:

    Magicka was great until they released $200 of shitty DLC.

    • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      How did that make Magicka less great? The base game is still awesome.

      • wisnoskij says:

        Because the developers are a bunch of greedy *****.

        • Gnoupi says:

          Mostly cosmetic (and fun) DLC, and on side of that, the developers provided a great base game for 10 euros. They even added a new multiplayer mode for free. And were regularly adding free maps.

          I don’t see how wanting to get paid for a new content is being greedy. Developers have to eat too.

          And aside from that… The original developers (Arrohwhead studios) produced only half of the DLC (the rest was Pieces Interactive). The original developers since then went on making the Showdown Effect.

          This particular game is made by Paradox North, a new studio.
          So even if your argument towards the original developers made sense… how does that apply here?

        • Viroso says:

          Making money selling things = greedy assholes.

          While it is true that Magicka somehow gets a free pas from people when it comes to DLC, I don’t really see the big deal. They just kept releasing stuff for the game and it wasn’t like the original game was incomplete, so what? Were they supposed to work on a new game? They’re supposed to do whatever they wanna do.

          It’d be nicer if people were more rational towards DLC instead reflex hating it.

          • solidsquid says:

            Wasn’t the Magicka DLC more like expansion packs than the usual “New branded t-shirt!” or “Paint your gun pink!”. The Magicka:Vietnam one seemed pretty sizeable anyway

          • darkChozo says:

            The majority of Magicka DLC was small packs of either robes, maps, or weapons. There were four (?) ~$5 expansions, each with a couple of story missions and all of the above.

            The smallish DLC wasn’t really that bad, it was cheap (~$2 as I recall, and Magicka + DLC went on Steam sale every two seconds) and actually kinda interesting. New robes have different statistics and starter weapons, and especially later tended to have unique attributes (like the Space Marine robe had lots of health and could charge using his staff but was immune to heal).

        • Phasma Felis says:

          You don’t seem to have answered the question. Please try again.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      It wasn’t shitty and it brought me and my friends much joy. Also discounts.

    • Paroxysm says:

      You mean the DLC that only 1 person in a group had to own for everyone else to join in with and was on sale so often if you just waited you could get the complete pack of everything for like $10? Yes so very greedy.

  8. Shiri says:

    I wanted to love this game so much, but I have never seen shittier multiplayer infrastructure in my life (at least, not on a game I cared much about playing multiplayer in the first place.) I think I spent about three or four times as much time trying to get the game to see my friends, crashing, lagging, getting stuck on black screens, desynching, and on one occasion a straight up BSOD, as actually playing. Christ, what a pile. The short periods I did get to pay for were glorious, but on the other hand, all that goddamn DLC.

    This is your last chance arrowhead! (assuming arrowhead is involved at all)

  9. Alphabet says:

    “The camera is closer in than Magicka was…”

    *sigh*. That’s why I won’t be buying this, and why I haven’t enjoyed an RTS-or-similar game in a decade or more. Even ARPGs are going this way. I wonder why? I want to have a small character on a large landscape, but that seems be less and less often the case.

  10. Ein0r says:

    Magicka: Great game.
    Magicka: biggest connectivity issues i have ever seen^^

  11. Boozebeard says:

    I love Magicka and I always thought the PvP duels could be really epic but I always figured half the skill of it will just bypassed by people using macros to cast spells =/

    • alltedrygt says:

      boozebeard, macros will only help really new players beat other really new players. if you get good at the game macros would only be in the way since you use so many spells and cast them as fast as the game will allow anyways.

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